Leclerc: After two races everyone sees me as a title contender…

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Charles Leclerc steered clear on Thursday of suggestions that he had become a potential Ferrari number one driver after a near flawless performance by the 21-year-old two weeks ago at the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Facing the media ahead of Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix, the Monegasque batted away questions with the same unflappable poise he had demonstrated under the floodlights while leading at Sakhir.

“I think things are going very quick in Formula 1,” said the Ferrari driver, who started on pole and set the fastest lap in Bahrain before being slowed by power unit problems and finishing third for his first podium.

“After the first race, nobody sees me as a title contender and then after the second race everyone sees me as a title contender…”

“I need to keep the focus on what I am doing in the car and trying to work as hard as possible and try to do the best job inside and outside of the car and then I am pretty sure the results will come.”

Driving in only his second race for Ferrari, Leclerc was on course for an easy first win until engine trouble some 10 laps from the end allowed champion Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas to sweep through for a Mercedes one-two.

Leclerc’s performance struck a sharp contrast to four-time world champion Vettel’s, who was unable to match his team mate’s pace and whose race unravelled in a spin and a lost front wing.

“As I said we are only at the second race,” said a bemused-looking Leclerc, who made his F1 debut for Sauber last year, when asked if he should be Ferrari’s main contender. “Anyway, this question is more to be asked to Mattia

“I’m not making the decision on that,” he said, before jokingly adding an “unfortunately” as Binotto looked on.

As for a repeat performance this weekend in Shanghai, Leclerc said, “I don’t have any particular expectations for this race at the moment, but I’m quite sure we will discover our true potential after free practice and even more so after qualifying.”

“Coming to China from Bahrain, the mood in the team is obviously very positive. I think we need to keep this energy going and hopefully we can have a good weekend, just as we did at Sakhir before the issue.”

“The positive thing is that we have understood what the problem was and we do not expect it to happen anymore,” added Leclerc, with reference to the problem he had on the SF90 late in the race at Sakhir which slowed him down dramatically and turned a sure victory into third place.

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